CBC News: Did Trump break laws with hush-money payments? Here’s what legal experts are saying (In the News)

CBC News: Did Trump break laws with hush-money payments? Here’s what legal experts are saying

By Matt Kwong

In interviews with CBC News, six election-law experts weigh in. The experts are:

Bradley Smith, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission

Charles Spies, head of national political law at Clark Hill in Washington, D.C.

Edward Foley, head of election law at Ohio State University’s Moritz College

Sam Isaacharoff, Reiss Professor of Constitutional Law at New York University

Dan Tokaji, author of Election Law in a Nutshell

Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, Stetson University election law professor

On Trump arguing that the money didn’t come from his campaign: …

SMITH: If they’re not campaign expenditures, they’re not subject to disclosure. My view is that this is not a campaign expenditure, and once you hit that point, it doesn’t matter how you paid for it. 

On personal expenses versus campaign expenditures: …

SMITH: You can’t make an argument like I need to have my teeth whitened so I look good on the campaign trail, or I need a new suit. A part of the statute defines “personal use” as any abdication that would exist even if you weren’t running for office. You’ve still gotta have clothes, still gotta keep your teeth, these are things that existed before you ran for office. The obligation has to exist solely because he’s running for president. It’s the idea of, ‘I want to settle these lawsuits because I don’t want this to hang over me.’

On the amounts of the payouts: …

SMITH: Typically, a candidate can spend whatever he wants on his own campaign. Now, if it’s a reporting violation, an argument I hear is people saying the public had a right to know. Had they taken that approach, they would have probably recorded it as “legal services.” So I’m not sure that the public actually would have gained much knowledge had it been disclosed.

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